Wednesday, April 18

Visual Blogging: Smooth Sailing thru a 4-Hour Art Tour

After scanning many museum sites this week... from quilt and fiber arts museums housed in a barn ( to the delicate/delightful/dainty Jello-dessert Museum (, I finally landed on Yep, another art museum... hmmm, are we beginning to see a pattern forming in this class assignment's "best" examples of interactive Web pages?

Task Scenario:
Planning a Visit to The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Me, my mom (75 years old; with bad knees; sweet old lady, with a great sense of humor and an interest in anything that her grandson is interested in) and my 15-year-old (energetic and mercurial) son, Josh, are planning to visit Baltimore and go to The Walters Art Museum for a 4-hour visit.

Planning ahead for any and all disasters beforehand... I visited the museum’s Web site at

The museum's site was simply and cleanly organized with top nav bar categories of The Museum, Works of Art, Exhibitions, Plan A Visit, Programs, and Education. It was pretty easy for me to check out the following potential disasters/concerns:
1. The parking situation – a simple click on Plan A Visit brought up a left nav bar which had "Directions and Parking" as one of the topics. I had to scroll down past the directions, but soon found the parking details: A staffed parking lot is conveniently located across the street from the museum at Centre and Cathedral streets. Museum visitors are eligible for reduced rates so stop by the Visitor Information Desk to get your ticket stamped...Other nearby parking lots include the Peabody Garage at Centre and St. Paul streets, the Franklin Street Garage on West Franklin Street between Charles and Cathedral, and an open lot between West Franklin Street and Centre Street near Park Avenue. The Peabody Court Hotel at the corner of Cathedral and Monument streets offers valet parking. Metered parking is also available in the neighborhood. to make things even clearer, the included this map with the parking clearly marked!

2. Can I get Mom a wheelchair? – OK, time to try out their search function... I just typed in "wheelchair" and two links appeared. The first, FAQs, told me in the first paragraph that the museum was fully accessible by wheelchairs and that a limited number of wheelchairs are available for free at the Visitor Information Desk on a first-come, first-served basis. Note to self: snag one sooner than later!
3. Is there a contemporary or bleeding edge exhibit that will win cool points in Josh' eyes - and how would you know if it is cool enough? – Hmmm... I first clicked on Programs and then tried Education. The second category had a section called "Interactive Design", so I took a chance... Integrating the Arts: Mummies, Manuscripts & Madonnas... Hmmm...I think this would actually keep Josh occupied and isn't anything that has to do with mummies "cool"?
4. A restaurant/food option that fits the bill? Price? – Back to Plan A Visit and the side nav link to "Amenities". A-ha! The Museum CafĂ© features a variety of sandwiches, salads, hot and cold beverages, and desserts in a self-serve casual setting adjacent to the museum entrance. No discussion of price, so I then clicked on the link for a list of neighborhood restaurants with membership benefits. Some of the restaurants even have links to their Web sites! Hmmm...the Akbar sounds interesting... and the prices are right on their menu. Indian food is always an adventure for my gang!
5. Tour guides/Audio tours – Back to Plan A Visit and the side nav link to "Tours": Museum-trained volunteers provide tours that are suitable to a variety of visitors, including adults, families, and the K-12 school visitors. "Walk-in Tours"
are free docent-led tours of the permanent collection or the special exhibition and are offered Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. & Sundays at 2 p.m. No reservations are required. Meet in the Centre Street Visitor Lobby. Free audio tours can be signed out at the Visitor Services Desk for use in the permanent collection.
6. What else is close by? – While I'm pretty sure we'll be very busy for more than the alloted four hours, I zipped back to the Plan A Visit link and the side nav link to "Baltimore Area Links". No problemo! There's enough to keep us going for the rest of the year!
7. Special events or performances? – Again, back to the Plan A Visit link and the side nav link to "Visitor Information". Another link to "View Events Calendar" brought up the programming bonanza! Looks like Monday and Tuesday are the lightest programming days... with more programs offered later in the week.

Interactive... Let Me Count the Ways...
1. The Museum Director, Gary Vikan, has his own blog
2. There's a link on the splash page that takes you to "Listen Online" opportunities at 88.1 WYPR radio's Web site where they've archived Director Gary Vikan's Monday morning broadcasts, "Postcards from the Walters", that explore the cultural and historical treasures of the museum.
3. Interactive Exhibits at the Museum, like Integrating the Arts: Mummies, Manuscripts & Madonnas

For all the reasons/information above, I believe The Walters Art Museum is one of the best examples of web site interaction design that I could find. My emotional response in using the web site was one of pending excitement. Similar to the feeling that there's "something exciting right around the corner", with each click of my mouse... I received more good information and became more excited about our upcoming visit.

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